The City of Austin is committed to employing innovative measures that increase resiliency for small business owners and their employees, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and has a new pilot program to expand the space businesses have to use to encourage social distancing. The Shop the Block program was proposed by council member Pool and allows for retail, restaurant and cocktail to use outside space with a very streamlined permit process and more latitude than before. Details and application can be found here. This is a great way for retailers and restaurants to expand their social distancing capacity and give customers access to their wares in open air spaces (for both comfort and safety).

Shop the Block is a pilot program operational during COVID-19 to help businesses during the pandemic. It allows businesses to apply for a 30-day permit, renewable for up to 6 months during the pilot period. Businesses can expand their operations outdoors onto their private parking lots and public sidewalk – while maintaining ADA compliance – as well as onto the public parking spaces in front of their establishments, for customer waiting or service. Open air dining and shopping will serve to attract more business activity, help boost the local economy, and create a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Shop the Block permitting begins June 15, 2020 through December 15, 2020. Businesses must still operate safely with adequate social distancing measures to protect customers. This pilot program allows an adjacent retail store, restaurants and bars to sell or provide goods, food, and beverages on City streets, sidewalks, or rights-of-way, including city on-street parking spaces. Eligible applicants include: Retail stores, Restaurants, and Cocktail lounges, taverns & bars. A group of retail stores, restaurants, or cocktail lounges, taverns & bars that share a private parking lot or are located on the same two blocks of a street, sidewalk, or city right-of-way. The number of attendees may not exceed the occupancy limit for the retail store, restaurant, cocktail lounge or group of retail stores or restaurants.

More details and application are available here.

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